Heartburn is a common symptom experienced by many people, but is often overlooked as indigestion. Besides making you uncomfortable, this can be a sign of a much bigger health problem. While the occasional heartburn can be treated with antacids, chronic heartburn can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux.
Here are three important reasons you should not ignore heartburn
- It can promote tooth decay: The acid regurgitated might not necessarily stop in the esophagus. It can often also make its way into your mouth. When this happens frequently it can promote tooth decay and wear out enamel. This can also leave your mouth with a sour taste. Acid reflux induced tooth erosion can easily be prevented by the early treatment of acid reflux,but in most cases is noticed only after the damage has been done.
- It can cause cancer of the esophagus: Chronic acid reflux that persists for years can lead to changes in the cells of the esophagus. This can lead to a cancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus. The condition has no other symptoms can if left untreated can develop into cancer of the esophagus. Women are at a higher risk of this form of cancer than men. Though esophageal cancer is relatively rare, it is not something to be trifled with. The survival rate of esophageal cancer is very low in comparison to other forms of cancer. Only 15-20% patients live longer than 5 years after this condition is diagnosed.
- It can lead to breathing problems: Heartburn is caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus. If it is inhaled after regurgitation, it can worsen asthmatic conditions and pneumonia. At the same time, treating acid reflux with medication like PPIs can also increase the risk of pneumonia as it can promote bacterial growth and suppress coughing. Thus, when consulting a doctor for acid reflux treatment ensure that you mention any existing asthmatic conditions so that you can be treated with your lung functioning in mind.
In addition, acid reflux can also impact a person's health and quality of life. To prevent heartburn people often find themselves avoiding certain foods. This can impact their social lives and in turn make them withdrawing into themselves. A person's sleep can also be affected by heartburn. Hence, it is important to treat heart burn as early as possible and not wait for it to become a chronic problem.